Volleyball Physics

By: Alex Yang and Brendan Beamer

Volleyball Basics

In the game of Volleyball, there are six players on each side of net, and they are required to rotate clockwise one position each point scored for their team. Each team is only allowed to touch the ball three times on its side of the net. You are not allowed to hold the volleyball during play. The objective is to make the ball hit the floor of the opposite team.

Motion of Volleyball

Volleyball is a sport with constant motion, with the ball continuously moving. There are many different ways motion can be displayed in volleyball.

  • Overhand Serving: The server throws ball up in the air and hit its with their arm that has circular motion. Ball then fly through air in an arc-like motion before gravity and friction acts upon it to make it stop.
  • Underhand Serving: The ball is placed on server's hand. It is then hit with server's hand that goes in a downward arc. The ball then goes through the air, in an arc-like motion, depending on where the ball is hit. Gravity and friction work to stop the ball from moving.
  • Forearm Passing (Bump): The ball hits the passer's forearm, causing a change in it's motion. The motion of ball is also arc-like, but it depends on where the ball hits the passer's forearms. Gravity and friction work to stop the ball moving.
  • Overhead Passing (Set): The motion from the setter is a push, usually upwards. The motion of the ball is usually straight up, but it depends how the setter sets it.
  • Spike: The spiker's arm is in a circular motion, very similar to how the overhand serve is. When hit, the ball's motion is abruptly changed, and the ball accelerates. The ball's motion is a straight downward motion, unless redirected by a player or an object.

Newton's First Law

Newton's First Law of Motion states, "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."

Newton's First Law of Motion is displayed in the sport of volleyball because the ball will continue flying through the air unless it is hit, bounces off an object, or gets pulled to the floor by the gravity and friction stops it.

Newton's Second Law

Newton's Second of Law of Motion states, "The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net external force acting on the object and inversely proportional to the mass of the object."

Newton's Second Law of Motion is seen many times throughout a game of volleyball. The mass of the ball will stay exactly the same throughout the entirety of the game. Therefore, only the acceleration of the swing will affect the amount of force behind the ball during a spike.

Newton's Third Law

Newton's Third Law of Motion states, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Newton's Law of Motion affects volleyball in that when the ball is hit, the force of the ball hitting the person’s hands makes an equal and opposite reaction and the volleyball will bounce back up with an equal force.

Air Resistance

Air resistance plays a slight role in volleyball. Air resistance slows the ball while it is going into the air, due to the ball's large surface area. Air resistance affects the overhead pass the most, as when the setters pushes the ball up, it is slowed by both the force of gravity and air resistance.


Momentum is used frequently in this sport. The spiker jumps in order to increase the force of their swing. When a player dives for the ball, momentum is also used. The momentum of the run before the dive allows for the player to decrease the time it takes for them to redirect the ball into the air.


When playing volleyball, there is not much equipment needed. The equipment consists of a ball, a net, and protection.